Written by Jane Kellogg Murray
May marks the 30th year of music, crafts, culture, and Texas history at the General Sam Houston Folk Festival. On May 12—14 in Huntsville, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum’s 15 acres will be transformed into a bustling frontier settlement, where visitors can stroll the grounds and experience what it might have been like for Sam and Margaret Houston when they retired there—where he died before the end of the American Civil War. The folk festival celebrates his legacy with historical reenactments, live music and dance, and kids’ games. Festival admission includes the 18th annual Texas State Knife and Tomahawk championship, held on the memorial museum’s grounds.
The oldest and largest of its kind in the nation, the Tejano Conjunto Festival celebrates the style of this unique Mexican dance music. The genre was born in south Texas at the end of the 19th century after German and East European settlers brought their accordions, waltzes and polkas to the region. The blend of cultures eventually evolved into tejano conjunto, where four-piece bands entertain the masses with the sounds of a button accordion, a bajo sexto, an electric bass and drums.
This festival brings together as many as 10,000 revelers from all over Texas and across the world for five days of music and dancing at the historic Guadalupe Theater and Rosedale Park in San Antonio. Hosted by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, this year’s festival runs May 17–21 and will feature star-studded performances by Conjunto Music Hall of Fame award winners.
Born out of a desire to keep Texas history and traditions alive, the 1836 Chuckwagon Races draws a crowd of more than 5,000—plus 2,000 horses and mules—each year to Diamond B Ranch in Neches, just outside of Palestine.
The race, which will take place April 21–23 this year, draws competitors from across the country, and the ranch encourages everyone to come early—the site is open for camping a week prior. This is no ordinary camping experience, however; the week offers various frontier-style activities, and motor vehicles are strictly prohibited—traveling around the campsite is limited to horses and wagons. Activities include trail rides, Dutch oven cooking classes, cowboy poetry, barn dances, live music and cowboy church.
Some will tell you the Kentucky Derby is the season’s most important sporting event in the South. They are wrong.
For the past two decades, the tiny Austin suburb of Buda has held a must-see display of physicality that draws athletes and fans from across the country. If you’ve never heard of it, it probably flew under your radar—perhaps because the sporting event’s athletes are so short.
On April 29–30, the town will host the Buda Wiener Dog Races for the 20th year, an annual running of the dachshunds that brings joy to all who witness it and put Buda on the map after Texas lawmakers voted to name it the Wiener Dog Capital of Texas. The event benefits the Buda Lions Club and several children’s charities.
The brilliant, somewhat slow-paced event occurs at a makeshift racetrack in Buda City Park. There are no prequalifying rounds for these canine competitors, so the first day of races means there’s quite a bit of wiggling and sniffing around the course, while others move as quickly as their four stubby legs can take them. Last year, the event added a race category for mixed breeds to compete. “The chiweenies always wanted to run,” says Nancy Handrick of the Lions Club. “They have to have some wiener dog in them, but we gave in. It helped that they’re cute.”
The weekend also features a best-dressed dog contest, a bake-off, barbecue and chili cook-offs, and live music and entertainment. And while the weekend of races culminates in a trophy presentation, every wiener’s a winner—or they are in our book, at least.
Three decades ago, a wacky and wonderful parade first hit Houston’s streets: the Art Car Parade. At the time it featured 40 artfully decorated cars and drew a crowd of around 2,000. Over the years, the parade, organized by the Orange Show, has evolved into a formidable celebration of Houston and the marriage of auto-engineering and free-form artistic design.
On April 6–9, this once-niche event now expects to meet with a crowd of around 250,000 attendees, with about 250 art cars driving in from across the country. The parade has become an annual party the whole city looks forward to, as it shuts down downtown Houston’s Smith Street and City Hall just for the parade route and supporting festivities throughout the weekend.
The celebration this year begins on Thursday with the public unveiling of the 2016 Reagan High School Art Car “Bohemian Rhapsody”—a tribute to the band Queen. On Friday, revelers change into their craziest costumes for a spirited night of fun at the Art Car Ball. The parade itself rolls on Saturday at 2 p.m., and the event wraps up Sunday with an awards ceremony, where a panel of judges grant more than $20,000 in cash prizes.
It’s like Mardi Gras if you substitute the beads and king cake with baile folklórico and mariachi music. What started in 1891 as a one-parade event to honor the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto has evolved into the city’s premiere event, Fiesta San Antonio. A spectacular firework show during the official opening ceremonies kicks off more than 100 events across 11 days. First-timers can find the breadth of offerings overwhelming, so look for a volunteer for guidance—some 75,000 people donate their time. This year’s event is April 20–30.
Exploring Cuba’s artistic production in the years following Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959, “Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950” looks at how Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations for social utopia—and subsequent disillusionment—shaped 65 years of Cuban art. The exhibition is the most significant presentation of modern and contemporary Cuban art shown in the United States in more than 70 years.
Although many artists have emigrated from Cuba to live and work abroad, “Adiós Utopia” focuses on the untold narrative of those artists who remained, and it explores how the country’s history affected individual artists, shaped the character of art produced on the island, and conditioned the reception of Cuban art both in Cuba and abroad.
The exhibit runs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from March 5—May 21. Visit mfah.org for more information.
We hope you’re hungry: The weekend’s best bets to cap off March include the Texas Food Truck Showdown in Waco, the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, and rosé all day at the Texas Wine Revolution in Stonewall. Don’t forget to keep your guard up on Saturday—it’s April Fools Day.
While you’re on the road hunting for newly sprouted wildflowers this weekend, consider adding these weekend activities to your to-do list, including the Liberty Jubilee Festival and the International Friendship Festival in Eagle Pass—“where yee-haw meets olé.”
Go wild with the wildflowers at Jasper’s Azalea Festival, catch a concert during the final weekend of SXSW in Austin, and grab the luck of the Irish at St. Patrick’s Day events across the state.
From raucous block parties to traditional Celtic dancing, it doesn’t take the luck of the Irish to find the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Texas. Grab your green, say your Irish goodbye and head to as many of these locales as you can manage so you can celebrate with the best of ’em.
Texas has plenty to offer travelers this weekend, whether you intend to join the SXSW circus taking over Austin, or you plan to wander far away from the hubbub and dive into events of a slower pace across the state this weekend—like the Llano Earth Art Fest, Houston’s River Oaks Garden Club Azalea Trail, and The Best Little Cowboy Gathering in Texas.